In Craig Berube's first game as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, his team was able to pick up their first win of the season and help him to a successful coaching debut. The visiting Florida Panthers sent Tim Thomas to start in net, while the Flyers went with Steve Mason. The goalies would have very different types of nights – Thomas would give up two quick goals in the first period before leaving with an injury, while Mason would stop 33 of 34 stops to give Berube and the Flyers their first victory, a 2-1 triumph over the visitors.
Tonight's first period had the Flyers put their best play on display since the first period of the season. The Flyers capitalized twice off of Tim Thomas and the Panthers. Their first goal came from Brayden Schenn, his second of the year. After Jakub Voracek blasted a shot wide that bounced off the boards behind the net, Schenn took advantage of the bounce, which confused Thomas. Schenn put it in the back of the net to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
Just over two and a half minutes later, Tim Thomas made another erratic play on a strange bounce from behind the net, and Braydon Coburn deposited the goal, his first of the year, and his first since last February. On the play, Tim Thomas apparently injured himself, and was immediately pulled from the game. Florida backup goalie Jacob Markstrom came in and shut the Flyers down through the second half of the period.
The Flyers came out and played with what looked to be a renewed passion and continued their role as the top-hitting team in the NHL, outhitting the Panthers 16-7 in the period. Steve Mason made a few flashy stops at the other end, and was tested more than the Flyers tested the Florida net-minders.
Mason and the Flyers continued their strong play in the second period. The Flyers had a number of scoring chances, something that has been rather uncharacteristic of the team so far this year. They continued their strong offensive-zone play, penetrating the puck deep into the Florida zone for much of the period. However, in the closing seconds of the period, the Flyers gave up a tough-luck goal. Brad Boyes scored on a big rebound that was created by a frantic Florida rush in the final seconds to cut the lead to 2-1. Mason had been flawless tonight, and had a strong second period leading up to the goal.
The third period got off to a turbulent start for both teams. Three minutes in, Jay Rosehill, who was being escorted to the penalty box for a minor penalty, charged into a scrum and got another minor penalty along with Zac Rinaldo, which put the Panthers on a four minute power play. The Flyers orchestrated an excellent penalty kill, getting through the four minute man disadvantage unscathed. Just minutes later, at the halfway mark of the period, Scott Hartnell was drilled into the boards by Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Hartnell was slow to get up, and Gudbranson picked up a five-minute major for his boarding of Hartnell. Hartnell would get up and skate off after the hit.
Despite having five minutes on the man advantage, the Flyers, too, were not able to capitalize on the extended power play time. But they were able to shut down the Panthers the rest of the way. The Panthers made some noise at the end of the period before Brayden Schenn took a high stick with just over two minutes remaining in the game, effectively sealing the first win of the season for the Flyers and Berube.
In Craig Berube's debut, his team looked to play with a sense of life and confidence that was not displayed often under the first three games under former coach Peter Laviolette. The Flyers came out and got two quick goals off of a rusty and ailing Tim Thomas, which was enough for the victory tonight. Even though they only put up the goals in the first period, the Flyers saw better and deeper penetration into the offensive zone, and had more scoring chances than in their first three games.
Steve Mason stopped 33 of 34 shots in a dazzling performance with only the one blemish at the end of the second period. Mason is playing very well through the first four games, and has started three of those games. He and Ray Emery will be used interchangeably with a back-to-back coming up this weekend.
The power play, however, was a weak spot, as the Flyers went 0 for 5 on the man advantage tonight, despite having a 5 minute power play in the third period. Luckily, Florida's power play also went 0 for 5, as they have yet to score on the power play this year. The physical play was again absolutely dominated by the Flyers, who came into tonight's game with a whopping 120 hits through the first three games. They would log 29 hits on the evening, and dominated the Panthers in physical play.
It's a strange schedule here at the beginning of the season. The Flyers will play back to back games Friday and Saturday night, with the Phoenix Coyotes coming to town for the first time in two seasons on Friday night. The Flyers will then travel to Detroit to play the Red Wings, host the Vancouver Canucks, and then host the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 17th, before having an uncharacteristic seven consecutive days without a game. For now, they'll prepare for the Coyotes Friday night after bringing home the first victory of the season and a victory in Craig Berube's head coaching debut.
Florida: 19:53 – Brad Boyes (1), Assisted by Brian Campbell (3) and Aleksander Barkov (1)
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